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Nvidia GTX 480 Review

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When you get right down to it the GTX 480 offers up better performance than the HD 5870. That's the expectation the world had for this card. In 44 out of 48 tests run the GTX 480 delivered a higher level of performance, a pretty stout performance. In the four tests that it did not outright win, two showed performance equal to the HD 5870 and the two it lost were not by a large margin. With those kind of performance results I have to say that NVIDIA delivered a card that did what it was meant to do, deliver a higher level of performance. This was more evident in the newer games and DirectX 11 game and benchmark results where the GTX 480 cleaned house. The scoring in the Unigine 2.0 benchmark shows the strengths of the Fermi architecture with scores from the GTX 480 finishing almost 100% higher than the results of the comparison HD 5870 when the extreme tessellation preset is chosen. Metro 2033 testing showed that the performance in the Unigine testing was no fluke. The tesselation performance is a result of the all new Polymorph Tesselation engines that reside in each GPU cluster.  Much of the early talk about the Fermi third generation Streaming Multiprocessor architecture was geared toward GPU computing, but make no mistake, this is a video card built for gaming as shown by the results. However, there is so much more that this card can be used for besides gaming; there are an abundance of GPU accelerated applications to make your life easier, such as Badaboom, Vreveal, WinZip, Photoshop and more. For those into the distributed computing scene there is a client that takes advantage of the massive parallel architecture to really push your contributions higher to hopefully help find a cure for some really heinous diseases. NVIDIA's stereoscopic 3D Vision system is not new to the market but supporting it over three monitors is a whole new way to enjoy this technology. When running with three monitors you have what is called 3D Vision Surround. If you don't want to use NVIDIA's 3D Vision system you still can enjoy a surround experience with GT 200 and higher based video cards. The downside is that to run the surround setup you need to run two cards in SLI. If you are going this route you still have the monitor purchase but you just need two cards to really have the horsepower to drive the 746 million pixels per second in a 3DSurround setup. That does add to the cost but really, if you are going that way you have some cash to get there. Pricing is expected to be in the $499 range, or about 50 to 80 dollars more than ATI's HD 5870. Steep but the price point is going to be expected and puts NVIDIA at a point where ATI may not cut prices, making this a bad situation for consumers. Time will tell though.

When it came time to overclock the GTX 480 I was able to get a decent clock speed increase out of the card that showed nice increases in gaming scores across the board. There weren't any utilities already out but EVGA will have its Precision overclocking tool available that gives you the ability to push the clock speeds on the GTX 480. The clock speeds I reached amount to a 15% increase in the Core/Shader speed, from 1401MHz to 1608MHz, and an 11.5% increase on the memory clock speeds, from 1848MHz to 2115MHz. However, to reach this level of performance you need to make sure you have at least a 600 watt power supply with a native 6 and 8-pin PCI-E power connector. Max power consumption for the board is rated at 250 watts. I only saw close to that number while overclocked, with a total system consumption of 451 watts. At idle, the system consumes 206 watts. At stock speeds, the power consumption was about 25 watts lower at 424 watts. The cooling solution used on the GTX 480 looks pretty stout but with fan speeds left at auto the card heats up fast. I saw temperatures over 100 degrees Celsius using Furmark with the fan speeds on auto. Bump the fan speed to 100% and you get temperatures in the mid 60C range. However, you do have a noise penalty when doing this. At a fan speed of 70% I found a good solid balance between noise and temperatures. 80 Celsius is where the temperature peaked in my well ventilated Stacker 810 case. This put me a good 25 Celsius away from the maximum safe temperature. Just make sure your case is well ventilated or you may see the temperatures of the other components in the system increase and cause you other heat related concerns. Cooling those three billion transistors and 480 cores is gonna take some work.

ATI has filled its product stack from top to bottom so NVIDIA has its work cut out for itself, filling up its stack to compete with ATI at all price points. To achieve this, NVIDIA built a scalable architecture that uses GPU clusters so you can drop clusters (four on the GTX 480) to reach a performance and price point. It will be interesting to see how NVIDIA fills out its DirectX 11 portfolio. All things considered, NVIDIA stepped up to the plate (albeit rather late) and delivered gaming performance with visual quality. While the cards do not hit stores until the week of April 12, nVidia has assured us of an ample supply of cards available on launch.



  • Performance
  • Overclocking
  • DX 11 performance
  • 3D Vision and Surround supported
  • Direct Compute
  • 32x CSAA
  • Power consumption
  • Cooling solution
  • Productivity increase with CUDA apps
  • Ray tracing
  • PhysX
  • Competitive price point



  • 3D Vision Surround needs two video cards
  • Hot running
  • Fan noise at full speed


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